Let's talk figure drawing again.
We've discussed this in the past but it's ALWAYS worth talking about. In fact one of the lost Quackcasts was on this very subject.
Figure drawing isn't easy, you need constant practise to maintain the skill. If you neglect it degrades slowly over time. As for myself, I always had a knack for figure drawing as a kid. I drew life models in high school and later on at art school and university. Outside of an academic environment I've often been to life modelling sessions as well. I studied skeletons, the underlying structure of muscles the comparative body shapes of other mammals, people of different sizes and shapes, different ages, clothed as well as unclothed, draped, speed drawing, statues etc, and yet my figures are no more realistic than anyone else's, in fact they're a little LESS realistic due to over-stylisation and being a quite stiff.
But if drawing from life is the gold standard for doing good figure drawing, how can that be? Well, firstly because I don't keep up my practice and secondly because it simply ISN'T the gold standard and never has been. Life drawing teaches you a few specific lessons: how figures look in a pose from three dimensions, how weight, mass, and gravity affect them in different poses, the typical shapes of certain body parts (ankles, the curve of the shin, the bow of the forearm…), and the effects of light and shadow. Life drawing comes from fine art, where you would have a person pose so you could do your own visual copy of them in sculpture or painting so you can get the most accurate version possible. Comics don't feature too much of that. If you want to be good at drawing figures for comics there are other skills you have to pick up.
Be wary of learning from photos! Photos are an artificial representation of reality There's the old myth that goes “the camera never lies”, this is bullshit. Cameras catch impossible split seconds in time, they see reality in ways we don't: strange fleeing expressions, floating body mass as someone moves or jumps, distortions due to the size and shape of a lens, artificial flattening etc. Digital cameras are even worse since the sensors adjust for colour and light to create new and strange distortions, which is just the tip of the iceberg. Photography is useful, but inferior to life drawing.
Life drawing is a good basic foundation, but most comicers can't use that. So here are the things you need to learn:
- Simple wire frame bodies in the poses you want. As long as your proportions are right, this helps you get good at poses and positioning.
- Simplify body parts into basic geometric shapes. This helps you with mass and the perspective on unusual poses.
- Look at how others have drawn their figures or the poses that you wish to draw; copy them so you can understand how they did it. Do not use the copied work as your own though!
- STAY AWAY FROM STYLES! Do not ape the styles of others and don't learn from very stylised art like manga or Disney; this will handicap you. Don't try and develop your own style either. All this comes later. When you understand how real figures work only then should you dive into the styles of others. Your own style will happen naturally later.
Assuming you're well on your road of comic drawing, how do capture those tricky poses?
- Get a maquette, which is a small posable figurine. Or get a couple of them so you can get your figure interaction better.
- Do quick sketches of real people in the poses you need (if you have access to them).
- Photos of yourself or other people are useful guides.
- Look at the work of other artists.
- Use a mirror to draw yourself.
Most importantly: practice!
There are really no rules though. People have different approaches and what I've said here is only a guide. There are professional comicers who've never drawing from life or even a realistic figure, there are manga artists who started with that style and never moved outside of it, people who've always drawn with their own individual style, comic artists who use life drawing for ALL their figures, and there are plenty who simply trace photos as a matter of course, there are other who's work mainly consists of the copied art of others (please don't follow that example), and then there are people like me that think drawing entirely from imagination is enough. That's all great and it's really just a matter or whatever gets the job done, but you don't want to find yourself locked in by your own limitations, which is what all these things lead to.
Do you have any figure drawing advice?
ozoneocean at 12:00AM, Aug. 4, 2017
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